“Lights up on Washington Heights!” because today we’re talking In The Heights. Thanks to Warner’s early screening, we got to see what’s probably our favorite movie of the year and one of the most remarkable stage-to-screen adaptations of all time. Seriously, we sobbed our way through half of this movie. That’s how great it was. The casting was perfect, the photography was beautiful, and those costumes were *chef’s kiss*!
But if you were not able to watch the movie yet, do not worry. This will be a no-spoiler review, so you get to experience the magic of In The Heights for the first time spoiler-free. Everyone should have the experience of going in blind to experience the two hours and 22 minutes of In The Heights.
With all of that out of the way, let’s explain a bit more of the movie. In The Heights is the movie adaptation of Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical of the same name, which he wrote about Washington Heights, the neighborhood he’s lived in for most of his life. Historically, Washington Heights is a predominantly Latinx neighborhood, put in the spotlight for In The Heights. We guarantee every Latin American watching this movie will get the chills!
A Little Bit Of Background
The main character, who is also the one narrating the story, is Usnavi, a Dominican immigrant who dreams of going back to the Dominican Republic because he doesn’t feel like he belongs in New York. In the original Broadway cast, Lin Manuel Miranda was Usnavi. But this time, the part belongs to Anthony Ramos, who every theatre nerd will know as the actor playing John Laurens and Phillip Hamilton in Hamilton, another tremendous musical by Miranda (where he also plays the lead in the original cast).
Around Usnavi are many other interesting and unique characters, like his cousin Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV, an example of perfect casting, tbh), Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz), who we’ll talk about in a moment, and Nina (Leslie Grace), the first girl in her family to go to college. Other characters you’ll fall in love with like we did are Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), Daniella (Daphne Rubin-Vega), and Carla (Stephanie Beatriz). And an honorable mention goes to Lin Manuel Miranda and Christopher Jackson (Benny in the original Broadway cast), who both made cameos in the movie.
The Characters You’ll Fall In Love With
Abuela Claudia is one of the highlights of the movie. The character was iconic and unique, but Olga Merediz had already played the character on stage and was brought back for the film! We don’t know how that came to be, but thank you! No one could ever play Abuela as well as Olga, and we will die on this hill. Abuela will pull at the heartstrings of anyone (especially if you are/were close to your grandparents). And if you’re still ok after ‘Paciencia y Fe,’ you ignored the lyrics; that’s all we’re saying. Fair warning: this woman is one reason you should have tissues with you for the movie (we didn’t).
Vanessa is our new favorite character. An aspiring fashion designer whose dreams are the opposite of Usnavi’s. He wants to go back to his home, and she wants to leave hers. So obviously, these two are completely head over heels for each other. And we totally get Usnavi. Who wouldn’t fall for this woman?
Special shout out to Benny and Nina, the second cutest couple in this story (first place belongs to Usnavi and Vanessa, sorry). Leslie Grace and Corey Hawkins were adorable together on screen and really brought that feeling of young love we, the hopeless romantics, love to see. But of course, their story isn’t just about romance. Nina, in particular, gets a lot of attention for being the first to go to college and, as a result, being away from her welcoming community and feeling alone because of it.
Update That Story!
The movie has a few differences compared to the stage version, but quite honestly, it did not affect the viewing experience negatively at all! In fact, the updates made the story even better and more relevant in 2021. We honestly didn’t miss any of the things they took out of the story.
We love ourselves some good old representation, and boy did this movie deliver in that department! For starters, Carla and Daniela are a couple, and they’re perfect! It’s a small change, but it speaks volumes exactly because it’s never even discussed. They’re just there, together and happy! 😍 The matter of immigration is also firm in the story. More than once, characters talk about their experiences coming to the US and how that shaped them into who they are. Excuse us while we cry over how well done this movie was.
Warning for all of you who have watched the stage version: some songs change order in the movie. Just so you know, the songs ‘Blackout’, ‘Paciencia y Fe’ and ‘Alabanza’ happen one right after the other. Do what you will with that information. Because of those changes, some small elements changed as well, but something negative was in no way. The play was made for a stage and the movie, for a screen, and both versions are fantastic.
Finally, here’s a little rundown of Easter eggs to look out for: as mentioned before, Lin Manuel Miranda and Chris Jackson have cameos; ‘You’ll Be Back’ from Hamilton plays at one point; Patrick Page also has a cameo. Theatre nerds, we are thriving here!
And that’s about all we can say about In The Heights without giving anything away! Now tell us, have we convinced you to watch the movie as soon as you can? Tell us in the comments, or tweet us @TheHoneyPop!
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Featured Image Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures